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Senate Democrats meet about way forward on social spending bill

▶ Watch Video: Democrats plan to move ahead with Build Back Better bill despite Manchin’s opposition

Two days after Senator Joe Manchin announced he would not vote for his party’s ambitious social spending plan, Senate Democrats met virtually Tuesday evening to discuss the way forward on the legislation, according to Democratic source. Manchin’s opposition to the bill could kill the Build Back Better Act, since all 50 Democrats must back the bill in order to secure its passage. 

The West Virginia senator also joined the call, according to a source familiar with the call, who said Manchin mostly listened while others spoke. However, he did make some remarks near the beginning of the call, reiterating what he has said before about the bill.

His spokesperson said in a statement, “This evening Senator Manchin had an honest conversation with his colleagues for whom he has a great deal of respect.”

Tensions had been rising for days, even before the West Virginia senator said the bill would not have his support. Near the end of the week, negotiations with the White House were already said to be going poorly. Soon after Manchin’s appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” where he announced his decision, the White House accused him of backing out of a commitment, and progressive Democrats accused him of cowardice. 

By Monday, though, the White House was far less publicly confrontational — Vice President Kamala Harris, in an exclusive network interview with CBS News’ Margaret Brennan, denied that she felt betrayed by his reversal on the bill. “I think the stakes are too high for this to be in any way about any specific individual,” she said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, too, told Democrats that the provisions in the Build Back Better bill are too necessary and too important to give up. 

He said he would push for a vote in January on the bill to build pressure for a deal. 

“I know we are all frustrated at this outcome,” Schumer said of Manchin’s rejection of the measure. “However, we are not giving up on Build Back Better, period. We won’t stop working on it until we pass a bill.”

Schumer, like President Biden, pointed to recent reports published by Goldman Sachs and Moody’s that suggested that failure to pass the social spending bill would imperil the nation’s fragile economic recovery. 

The Democrats on the call supported the idea of holding a vote on Build Back Better, and Schumer told the caucus that they would take up the bill recently passed by the House to begin debate. 

Democrats have also been stymied by Republicans in their attempts to pass a voting rights bill. Schumer said that if they blocked it again in January, the Senate will consider and vote on a change to Senate rules to enable the passage of the voting rights bill. Manchin and Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema oppose changing the filibuster rules that would prevent Republicans from blocking the bill, though, almost certainly ensuring that the measure will fail.



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